Saturday, October 31, 2009

review - MTW's Meet Me in St. Louis

Meet Me in St. Louis
songs by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane; book by Hugh Wheeler

directed by Richard Israel

Musical Theatre West @
Carpenter Performing Arts Center, Long Beach
through November 15

The classic 1944 film Meet Me in St. Louis directed by Vincente Minnelli is so revered that to imagine a stage version of equal prominence is... Well, Musical Theatre West's (MTW) impressive reproduction of the 1989 Broadway version is so charmingly rendered, that one forgets the movie, Judy Garland, Margaret O'Brien & company... at least for 2 hours. Not unlike White Christmas on stage, Meet Me in St. Louis captivates its audience with mesmerizing production values and an astounding ensemble.

Not one actor is miscast; even the youngest children are top-notch performers. With director Richard Israel's (Anita Bryant Died for Your Sins) dependably smooth staging, everyone contributes beautifully to the big picture of the family unit that somehow remained more cohesive in 1904 than it does today. Heading the clan are the always steadfast Norman Large and Mary Gordon Murray as father and mother Alonso and Anna Smith. Cassie Silva - what a treasure! - is Esther. She's pure heaven! Cathy Newman is delightfully caustic as Katie. Kevin Cooney is the perfect gentleman as Grandpa Prophater. Grace Kaufman makes an adorably precocious Tootie. Rounding out the outstanding mix are Robert Pieranunzi as brother Lon, Sarah Bermudez as Rose, Jason Evans a divine John Truitt and Jeremy Bernard, a wonderfully insistent Warren Sheffield.

I assume with no credit listed that the set is a purchased touring set, but it's great to look at - the house, the trolley, the ice-skating pond, et al. Choreographer Lee Martino makes stellar contributions, as does musical director Daniel Thomas.
I love edgy mateial, which St. Louis is not. But I am also a sucker for nostalgia, especially when it's well done, and this production is delectable in every way. It's the top!
5 out of 5 stars


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